Pamela RothVictoria News
It’s been more than two weeks since Harold Backer — a former Olympic rower and investment advisor in Victoria — headed out for a bike ride and never came home. Now his employer of the last 10 years has terminated his registration due to a fraud investigation.
In a statement recently released to the media, Investia Financial Services said the 52-year-old mutual fund investor had 20 active clients or 12 households with the company. Some clients have confirmed that they had personally invested with Backer and wrote cheques directly to “My Financial Backer Corp.” as far back as 1996. The money, however, never flowed through Investia.
“Mr. Backer failed to follow our policies and procedures which required him to disclose all outside business activities,” said the company. “All clients have been contacted and it appears that only registered accounts were held with Investia. All monies related to these accounts are intact.”
The search for Backer began on Nov. 3 after he told his wife he was going for a bike ride, but never returned. That same day, a man closely matching Backer’s description was seen leaving Victoria on the Coho ferry, sparking Victoria police to expand their search area to include the Port Angeles Police Department.
Backer’s disappearance has left friends and family worried and baffled. A Facebook page has since been created to help find Backer, who was with five other mutual fund or securities dealers prior to Investia.
According to the Facebook group, more focus has been shifted on an online virtual search and Backer’s missing status has been shared on social media by more than 10,000 individuals internationally.
Members of his family declined to comment about the case, but a letter allegedly written by Backer that was recently sent by one of his clients to the Times Colonist sheds some light on his past.
In the letter, Backer states that in 1996 he started the private corporation, Financial Backer, to address his belief that standard investment practices were overly sales-based rather than driven by appropriate motivation to deliver better-than-average investment returns.
Backer said he made a “colossal mistake” when his market-based funds lost between 25 per cent and 45 per cent of their market value in the dot-com crash, and he didn’t tell investors about the loss. Instead, he decided to make the money back by forgoing any future fees until the losses were overlooked.
Backer later states he used a tax scheme to try and accelerate gains in the funds, and admits he’s running a pyramid investment that he will not keep doing.
“Even though I still consider the missing money in my corporation’s investment funds as my personal debt, I realize there is no way in my lifetime that I could pay it back to my investors,” the letter states.
“My investors have been my friends and I have done a terrible thing to my friends. My choice at this point is to do anything in my power to cover the investment losses I have created. If admitting to fraud would help restore the losses, I would accept the criminal penalty.”
In addition, Backer said that he has a life insurance policy that should be divided among his investors to cover almost all of the amount outstanding.
Backer is described as Caucasian, standing six feet, three inches tall with a medium build, green eyes and greying hair. It’s believed he was wearing a red cycling jersey, black riding pants, possibly carrying a black backpack and could be riding his Cannondale road bike. Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 250-996-7654.